December 3rd, 2011
03:10 AM ET

Smartphone spyware triggers privacy scare

How would you feel if your smartphone was spying on you?

Millions of people around the world got a taste of that earlier this week.

The cause for this ongoing privacy scare: an analytics company called Carrier IQ.

A video posted by security researcher Trevor Eckhart reveals that Carrier IQ can log nearly all your phone activities including calls, messages, location and even keystrokes.

According to Gizmodo, the software isn't part of any operating system, such as Android or iOS. Instead, it is reportedly installed independently by a phone carrier or manufacturer.

What's worse? There is no way to opt-out.

The exposure triggered havoc for the company, which is currently facing a senate investigation. But Carrier IQ denied all wrongdoings in a statement, emphasizing "privacy is protected."

So who is actually using the software?

Among major phone carriers, Spring, AT&T and T-Mobile all confirmed limited usage, citing network monitoring and maintenance as their main reasons. Verizon denied using Carrier IQ, along with handset makers Research In Motion and Nokia. Samsung and HTC said their phones do not include the software unless U.S. carriers request it. Unfortunately, both companies still could not escape being sued for violating the Federal Wiretap Act.

As for Apple, the company issued a statement saying "we stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5 in most of the products and will remove it completely in a future software update.”

Click here to see how to check whether your handset has Carrier IQ.

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Filed under: Data • Gadgets • General • Technology
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Caged Ideas

    Those of you who think you can just buy an i-phone or update your OS don't understand the problem. ALL CELL PHONES are tracked, and anything on them can be using against you so long as the phone is connected to a "network". The "cell" in cell phone refers to the towers themselves­, to guarantee quality of service your provider needs to know where your device is at all times, so ALL CELL PHONES "smart" and "dumb" are tracked. If they can get three stationary towers in touch with your phone (an easy thing these days) they can "triangula­te" your location down to a dozen meters or so. Recent news mentioned a device called the stingray that can be used like a "portable cell tower" to find your phone wherever it is.

    Now the tricky part is how exposed are you? To answer that you need to consider how "smart" your phone actually is? Does it have GPS? Does it have internet access? Does it have a camera? Does it have expanded capabiliti­es to run applicatio­ns? Well... Since it is connected to an active network, not only can the cell phone service provider locate you down to a few feet thanks to the GPS but so can a jealous partner or employer with software available online, an applicatio­n designer / owner, a tech savvy computer geek, or someone with the monopoly of power like government­, can use everything on that device that you can and more. Find us on facebook under "caged ideas LLC" for more informatio­n and a solution.

    December 3, 2011 at 6:26 am | Reply
  2. SuperUberIntelUser

    I believe Trevor had his detection tool removed from the android market place. I don't know if it was put back. There have been other reports to that other developers are saying the the bloggers initial inspection of what the software does is in fact wrong.I truly believe the software
    is simply diagnostics. I know lots of screaming and yelling and
    freaking out over a video, which if you are technically inclined is fake
    for all intense and purposes. Just look at what others have reported after reverse engineering the product and also watching how the software processes and reads information.
    The "security researcher" if you want to call him that works for a company called Telogis. I hear they are trying to get up to the race with Carrier IQ. What better way than to get the leader shut down and you quietly slip into the vacuum that is left behind. If you don't believe me check out the bloggers linked in profile.
    I think he was asked to do this as corporate espionage, and then they will control it all. Al bet a little differently.

    December 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Reply

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